Food-labeling initiative advocates fined $4,000 by state

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The campaign committee behind last fall's food-labeling initiative must pay a $4,000 fine for not reporting until after the election thousands of dollars of assistance from other groups.

The Daily Herald reported that state Public Disclosure Commission imposed the penalty on the Yes on I-522 Committee for failure to disclose nearly $118,000 of in-kind contributions made by PCC Natural Markets, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.

Commissioners approved the fine Thursday as part of a settlement.

An investigation found that the bulk of the contributions involved came from the ice cream maker in the form of $2,000 worth of free ice cream at a campaign event and $95,000 worth of ads endorsing the measure, which voters ultimately rejected.

Committee representatives said a clerical error led to the failure to report those in-kind contributions.

"There was no attempt at concealment," Jim Frush, an attorney for Yes on I-522, told commissioners. "We're very apologetic for the oversight."

Initiative 522, which would have required labeling of foods and beverages containing genetically modified ingredients, lost by a margin of 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.

About $20 million was spent by opposing sides in the campaign. The Yes on I-522 Committee reported nearly $8 million in expenditures, of which $600,000 came from in-kind contributions.